where the writers are

In 1976, Martin Scorsese directed "Taxi Driver", starring Robert DeNiro. Calling this a "conservative" movie is a stretch, but it is a prescient look at New York attitudes that preceded the age of Giuliani. Paul Schrader wrote it. His story is a hoot in and of itself. He and his brother were raised in a strict Calvinist Pennsylvania family, emphasizing the strictest tenets of Scripture and absolutism. The Calvinists are big on pre-ordained destiny. Released from this environment, he came to Hollywood and tried everything. Naturally, he was a mess; a drug addict, an alcoholic and a heterosexual so confused he tried homosexuality just?to try it. Given the assignment to write a screenplay, he was holed up in a downtown L.A. hotel for weeks, then months. He had little social contact except occasional taxi rides to restaurants in and around L.A.'s skid row. He began to see the world from inside the taxi, and came up with a character and a plot revolving around the concept.

DeNiro's Travis Bickle is a Vietnam Marine vet, off kilter but moral, who is sickened by the crime, drugs and immorality of 1970s New York City, seen from the taxi he drives night and day. He has an ill-fated fling with a pretty campaign worker (Cybil Shephard), goes off the deep end and portrays himself as a possible assassination threat to a Presidential candidate, although this is never fleshed out. In the end, he commits an act of vigilantism to save the life of a teenage prostitute with potential (Jodie Foster), and like in "Death Wish" (Charles Bronson), is made a hero.

The message of "Taxi Driver" is that peace comes from strength. It was a popular theme in a number of flicks. Hollywood seemed to fail to grasp some important realities about its marketplace. Time after time, movies that veered away from "touchy feely" liberalism and gave teeth to conservative characters (Eastwood's "Dirty Harry", Bronson, DeNiro, and others) made boffo box office, yet the industry has never come to grips with itself. They return time after time to premises that insult conservative audiences, and wonder why the lines get shorter.



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...for reminding me about this film. And for your enlightening insights. It's been decades since I've seen it.